Graduation

OpenPlans has always been an incubator for civic technology initiatives. Since 2008, I’ve had the pleasure of leading our “Civic Works” group, where we explore new directions, opportunities, and businesses — many with the goal of becoming sustainable initiatives in their own right.

Today, I’m proud to announce that two of our projects are officially “graduating” from the Civic Works incubator and, at the same time, that we’re welcoming several fantastic new leaders.

First, is our Transportation group.  What began with our work to help Portland’s TriMet create a beautiful online system map using open source tools, and led to our recent work with MTA to bring mobile and online bus tracking to Brooklyn, has become a thriving social enterprise. We are now working with some of the biggest transit agencies in the US to deliver better information to riders at a lower cost, using open technologies.

The Transportation group will be graduating from Civic Works, led by co-Directors Jeff Maki and Kevin Webb. Kevin and Jeff are talented civic technologists who have contributed greatly to our success thus far.  Under their stewardship, the team will continue to provide strategic technology services to transit agencies looking to build the next generation of open information infrastructure.

Second, is our Open Government group.  OpenPlans has long believed that governments should benefit from the cost-saving and innovation opportunities inherent in open source software, open data, and open technology platforms.  We have steadily grown our efforts in this space, including the Open311 platform, which has grown into a multi-city, multi-vendor collaboration under our leadership, and the Civic Commons initiative, which we’ve been incubating with our partners at Code for America and O’Reilly Media.

We are pleased to announce that our Open Government efforts will graduate from Civic Works and officially become a part of Civic Commons.  With our partners, we have been building Civic Commons into a strong initiative, and will be making a formal announcement about next steps later this month, so stay tuned.

As part of this change, I’ll be joining the Civic Commons team to help get that project off the ground. In my new role as Senior Director at OpenPlans, I’ll remain involved with all of our projects, supporting each of the initiatives mentioned here as they continue to grow, but I’ll no longer be leading Civic Works as a whole.

I’m very happy to announce that Frank Hebbert will be stepping into the role of Director of Civic Works and leading this group going forward.  Frank has a long history of working at the intersection of technology, urban planning, and community building, and has been leading our work in that space through projects like the NYC DOT Transportation Feedback Portals and TransportationCamp.  I couldn’t imagine a more natural leader for Civic Works, and have extremely high hopes for where he’ll take the group.

Civic Works will remain the place where we explore how technology, planning, citizens, and government come together, and where we experiment with new projects and businesses that we hope to grow.  We are fortunate to have a talented staff of engineers, designers and analysts within Civic Works, as well as a fantastic community of collaborators and co-conspirators.

We’ve had some great successes over the past year, working closely with many cities and our growing network or partners, and we look forward to continuing this momentum in 2011 and beyond. That these projects are “graduating” from the Civic Works umbrella is a testament to our model, and we will look forward to seeing what the next crop of projects produces.

I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for OpenPlans, and I’ll look forward to seeing you all along the way.